Today’s post carries many messages and many layers.
“Scarborough Fair” is the Peace Song of the Day for April 26th. It is a beautiful song of hope and longing. You can find lyrics for the old, traditional version at www.gardenerspath.com: here.
The version many of us hum to ourselves is the Simon and Garfunkel version. “Scarborough Fair/Canticle” takes the old song, and mixes it with an antiwar counterpoint (“Canticle”, based on Simon’s song, “The Side of a Hill”).
Mysteries and Meaning of the traditional, English ballad, Scarborough Fair…
There is controversy over the specific meaning of the song Scarborough Fair. And, probably, the truth is that many stories were part of, or became part of, the song.
One interpretation of the song, is that it is about The Plague. This theory is supported by the fact that parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme are herbs that can be used to clean the air of sickness and death. In this version, a “shirt without a seam” may mean a shroud.
Another interpretation of the song, is that it is a test that one love gives to another, and, that there is bitterness, or difficult parting, between the lovers. In this version, the shirt without a seam and washing in a dry well are impossible tasks presented to a lover.
With the bitter lovers theory, woven into the song may be a message to women. Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme are herbs that can be used for family planning. It is interesting to realize that just as oppressed, enslaved people used coded messages in songs like “The Drinking Gourd”, oppressed women of the Medieval Ages may have used songs like Scarborough Fair to teach lessons about reproductive health.
So, this beautiful, deep, song goes on our list of Peace Songs of the Day as an expression of peace, a story about justice for women, and a remembrance for a cherished member of the music community.
Excerpt from the lyrics
by Simon and Garfunkel
(War bellows blazing in scarlet battalions)
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
(Generals order their soldiers to kill)
And to gather it all in a bunch of heather
(And to fight for a cause they have long ago forgotten)
Then she’ll be a true love of mine
Sad Music News
The song Parsley, Sage is an appropriate choice for today, since a colleague of Simon and Garfunkel passed away today. Pete Fornatale interviewed, supported, and told many stories about Simon and Garfunkel over the years. Pete Fornatale was an author, Rock Historian, and a host on WFUV 90.7 FM Radio in New York City. Fornatale passed away today at the age of 66. You can see his obituary at the WFUV blog: here.